Near Death Experience

A near-death experience is defined as an altered state of consciousness reported after a close brush with death (such as by cardiac arrest). The experience is similar to drug-induced hallucinations.

In studies of those who have come close to death through cardiac arrest or other physical traumas, twelve to forty percent recalled a near-death experience (Gallup, 1982, Van Lommel Et al., 2001). 

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Psychologist Ronald Siegel (1977) reported that people under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD, Psilocybin and Peyote often see a bright light in the center of the field of vision. The position of this point of light creates a tunnel-like perspective.

Floating Near the Ceiling

Patients who have experienced temporal-lobe seizures have also reported profound mystical experiences, sometimes similar to those of near-death experiences.  When researchers stimulated the crucial temporal lobe area of one such patient, she reported a sensation of “floating” near the ceiling and seeing herself from above, lying in bed (Blank Et al., 2004).

Lack of Oxygen

Oxygen deprivation can also produce such hallucinations, complete with tunnel vision (Woerlee, 2004). Oxygen deprivation turns the brain’s inhibitory cells off, and neural activity increases in the visual cortex (Blackmore, 1993). The result is a growing patch of light, which looks similar to what you would see as you move through a dark tunnel. The near-death experience is best understood as “hallucinatory activity of the brain” (Siegel, 1980).

Embraced by the Light

Some near-death researchers object. There are people who have experienced both hallucinations and near-death phenomena who typically deny their similarity. A near-death experience may change a person in profound ways that a drug trip does not. Those who have been “embraced by the light” may become kinder and more spiritual, more believing in life after death. And, they tend to handle stress well, often taking the bull by the horns rather that becoming traumatized (Britton & Bootzin, 2004).

Flat-Lined and Floating

Take, for example, a recent magazine story about a woman who was seriously injured in a near-fatal auto accident in which she hit her head on the windshield of her car. During emergency surgery, the monitor flat-lined and she later recalled immediately leaving her body and watching all the activity, as well as her own surgery from above the operating table. She then remembered floating through the walls and out into the hallway where she observed her father having difficulty trying to buy a candy bar from a vending machine.

Candy Vending Machine Difficulty

Fortunately she recovered, but weeks later her father did not actually believe his daughter’s story about her watching her own surgery from above, until she mentioned the candy bar vending machine difficulty. No one else was there to know about the vending machine except him.

Is the Mind Non-Physical?

Ideas and controversy over near-death experiences raise a basic mind-body issue… Is the mind immaterial? Can it exist separate from the body? Dualists answer yes. They believe the mind and body are interactive but distinct entities – the mind non-physical, the body physical.

As Socrates says in Plato’s Phaedo (360 B.C.E.) “Does not death mean that the body comes to exist by itself, separated from the soul. And the soul exists by itself, separated from the body?” “What is death but that?”

Scientists and Theologians Share Monism

Monists, however, deny the separation of the mind and body. They believe that mind and body are different parts of the same thing. In the western world both scientists and theologians consider themselves monists. Scientists believe the brain and body are inseparable while theologians believe in some form of resurrection.

While debates continue over the significance of dreams, hallucinations and near-death experiences, questions remain that cannot be answered.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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